By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Questions remain about new after hours club asking for S.S. location


April 12, 2011

While details about garbage pick-up, employee parking, and trash removal were unveiled at an April 6 meeting at the Brashear Center on a controversial, proposed after-hours "social club" at 2214 East Carson St., questions to more substantive issues went unanswered.

A board of directors' roster and affiliations, and a copy of the most recent IRS 990 documentation, has yet to be submitted to the South Side Planning Forum as requested at its March 8 meeting.

"You are not creating a comfort level with community groups," said Hugh Brannan, chair of the Planning Forum, in encouraging the development team to consider the request for the governing board names.

Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side Local Development Company, noted the absence of a parking strategy.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he has not seen an effective plan for controlling the exodus of patrons into the community from 3-3:30 a.m., the time when the most problems occur along East Carson Street.

"You need to come here more prepared," he told attorney Ryan Wotus, of Goldberg, Kamin & Garvin, LLP, and the club's operator, Thomas Barnes, as neither knew the type of non-profit classification being sought.

The crux of the opposition is there are far too many alcohol establishments in the East Carson St. corridor – resulting in crime, drunk driving, vandalism, trash, noise, etc. — and that a 3 a.m. closing extends the problem.

"We have reached critical mass," said Mr. Kraus.

"We are providing an upscale place for older individuals to attend," said Mr. Wotus.

By meeting's end, Mr. Wotus said he would put the new details in writing, and find out from counsel handling the liquor license the type of non-profit classification being sought, before the planning forum's April 12 meeting.

A copy of the organization's charter and bylaws, its mission statement, the membership application, and a list of board meeting dates have already been submitted to the planning forum, at members' request.

Regardless, Mr. Kraus said he would oppose the project before the city Zoning Board of Adjustment on April 14.   The club must obtain special exception approval from the Zoning Board as a social club is a special exception in a Local Neighborhood Commercial (LNC) district.

The proposed upscale club in the vacant former St. Elmo's bookstore would be called the Polish American Citizens Club. It would occupy the building's 1600-square-feet first floor. There would be a bar, kitchen, and dining area. While the maximum occupancy is 99, there are no plans to provide parking except for two spots.

The hours of operation would be from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., Monday through Sunday. The hours are not negotiable, said Mr. Wotus.

Membership would be required for entry, unless accompanying a member. Annual dues are $20.  Board approval is required for membership.

The club currently has 45-50 members, with the average age over 40. The anticipated total membership is about 500.

Its mission is to donate money to Light of Life Ministries and the local food bank.

In addition to the proliferation of area bars, another concern expressed at the March 8 forum meeting was the involvement of unpaid consultant Thomas Jayson, who has been connected with numerous local nuisance bars over the past decades such as Touch, Donzi's, Matrix, and Rock Jungle.

A shooting occurred at one, and there were citations at others.

Mr. Barnes, who worked with Mr. Jayson in some of his ventures, called himself "a good operator" who made a few mistakes at some of the establishments. This would be his first non-profit operation.

The meeting was the third meeting between the development team and community leaders and representatives.

As for the update since the forum meeting, Mr. Wotus reported:

• Big's Sanitation, Inc., of Belle Vernon, will remove garbage twice a week.  The three cans will be kept in the garage.

"No sanitation will ever be kept outside," said Mr. Wotus.

• The club's seven to eight employees during peak hours will park at an off-site location and not on the street.

• The applicant would clean trash from the sidewalk in the club's immediate vicinity after closing.

Mr. Barnes said there would be someone at the door prohibiting patrons from taking alcohol outdoors.

Mr. Kraus said all the bars have such an arrangement, but bottles and trash are strewn throughout the neighborhood every Saturday morning.

Mr. Wotus said there would be off-duty police at the door.

"My comfort level is not raised by that as it will not protect the quality of life for someone five blocks away," said Mr. Kraus.

• There will be no live music or disc jockey.

• The line outside to enter the club will be limited to 10 people. The latter issue arose when Wanda Jankoski, of the South Side Community Council, commented on the possibility of numerous potential patrons lined up on East Carson St.


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